What does it mean to be nice? Does it mean carefully avoiding offending anyone? Does it mean avoiding unpleasant truths?
If so, I want no part of it.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of nice includes socially acceptable, pleasing, and agreeable. That is not the standard I want to use to measure my life.
Don’t get me wrong; I want to be kind. I also want to be loving, patient, and compassionate. I don’t think that these are quite the same as nice. Kindness implies genuine care; niceness only implies behavior. Kindness helps navigate rough waters; niceness refuses to admit that there are waves, even in the midst of churning rapids. Kindness is focused on others; niceness is focused on self.
Comparatively speaking, it’s easy to be nice. Follow a set of straightforward social expectations, smile politely, and share your toys. Kindness requires an investment of emotion. People are worth the cost, though. Thankfully, Christ thought so.
My model is Christ. He offended. He spent time with the social outcasts. He was not always pleasing and agreeable. He spoke the truth- even if it was unpleasant- not because it was unpleasant, but because it was true. When it came to choosing companions, he was too kind and compassionate to do the nice thing and choose respectable people; he chose the sinners and the tax collectors, the lowest of company. He sacrificed himself in a humiliating, demeaning manor. His greatest concern was not about himself and how he would be perceived, but how he could act in love.
The previous paragraph is written in past tense, but I want you to reread it in present tense. It is still true today.
My model is Christ. He offends. He spends time with the social outcasts. He is not always pleasing and agreeable. He speaks the truth- even if it is unpleasant- not because it is unpleasant, but because it is true. When it comes to choosing companions, he is too kind and compassionate to do the nice thing and choose respectable people; he chooses the sinners and the tax collectors, the lowest of company. He sacrifices himself in a humiliating, demeaning manor. His greatest concern is not about himself and how he is perceived, but how he can act in love.
I serve a risen Savior who is willing to identify with broken, sinful people. He points out my sin, which isn’t nice. In fact, it’s ugly and embarrassing. He doesn’t put on a fake smile and pretend that everything is fine when it’s actually in shambles. Instead, he kindly draws me in, closer to himself. He shows me the root of the mess that I have made, and he stays right with me, cleaning it up, over and over again.
I long to show the sort of kindness that is willing to offend with a loving revelation of the truth, but sometimes niceness takes over. I mince words, afraid to push people away, when I know that pushing them away from me may be pushing them nearer to God. I fear that my niceness is condemning my unsaved friends for eternity. Do I want to be that nice? No, I would far rather be truthful.
Lord, thank you for being kind. Thank you for showing me the ugly truth of my brokenness. You are holy and whole, and you are healing me of my unholiness. I long for the day that I can be in unbroken fellowship with you. Forgive me for being crippled by niceness, when you call me to be loving, compassionate, patient, and kind. Help me to point others to you in truth and in kindness. Amen.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.